President Barack Obama presented comedian Mel Brooks with the National Medal of Arts at the annual White House ceremony on Thursday.

Mel Brooks Receives Medal From President Obama

In the East Room of the White House yesterday, 90-year-old writer, actor, producer and director Mel Brooks received the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama. “As Mel Brooks once said to his writers on Blazing Saddles — ‘Write anything you want, because we’ll never be heard from again. We will all be arrested for this movie,'” Obama said during the presentation.

“To be fair, Mel also said, a little more eloquently, that every human being has hundreds of separate people living inside his skin, and the talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living within him,” Obama continued. “That’s what the arts and humanities do. They lift up our identities and make us see ourselves in each other.”

After Obama put the medal around Brooks’ neck, the EGOT winner appeared to mime trying to pull down the president’s pants. Later on during the ceremony Obama remarked, “I do think Mel Brooks kind of set the tone for this thing. Historically, this has been a much more staid affair.”


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In addition to Brooks, Obama presented national arts and humanities awards to Motown producer Berry Gordy, composer Philip Glass, actress and singer Audra McDonald, author Sandra Cisneros and chef José Andrés.

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